The Week: What Caught Our Eye

December 5, 2020

A snow covered mountain with evergreen trees and cloudsGore Mountain in North Creek is set to begin its 56th season, its cold air, snow-shrouded trees, wide-open space, challenging terrain and new lifts beckoning skiers. (With thanks to Ashley O’Connor at Gore.)

Good Morning, Colleagues and Friends:

We enter the final weeks of this unforgettable year with some news that is welcomed because it feels so normal — the opening of the ski season at Gore and Whiteface mountains in the Adirondacks.

Both mountains expect to open todayWest Mountain in Queensbury and others are expected to follow soon. It’s an even bigger deal than usual for New York skiers because of the various coronavirus restrictions that make leaving the state to ski, even to neighboring Vermont, either impractical or impossible.

Coronavirus-related protocols and other safety measures are in place, and skiers will have to fill out a “self health” questionnaire before arrival at Olympic Regional Development Authority venues, including Gore and Whiteface. It’s a good idea to buy tickets online in advance to ensure availability.

BYE-BYE, BONNIE: The Bonnie View Resort, a Bolton Landing landmark where families gathered every summer for 50 years to enjoy the clear waters of Lake George, has been sold to a Rhode Island investor for $4.4. million. No word on what the new owner intends to do with the property, which includes a beach and 336 feet of lakefront.

YOU’VE SEEN HER BEFORE: If you’re trying to place where you might have seen incoming White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki before, picture her 14 years ago when she was working in the Capital Region on Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand’s first congressional campaign. At the time she was Northeast regional press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,  working locally with reporters and training volunteers in the 2006 race when Gillibrand, now a U.S. Senator, upset four-term Republican incumbent John Sweeney. Maury Thompson has more.

TIMLEY INVENTION: Innovative health care, in every form, is under way at Albany Medical Center. A device developed and created at Albany Med's Biomedical Acceleration and Commercialization Center to remotely monitor lung disease patients hit the market just as coronavirus was taking off, and the result is 25,000 units shipped since April. "We have a very unique solution, and it's being adopted extremely rapidly by hospitals all throughout the United States,” Dwight Cheu, CEO of the company, ZephyRx, told the Albany Business Review. “It was the fastest product I've ever brought to market." It also finds a way make breathing exercises fun.

CELEBRATING DYNAMISM: Prepare to be inspired by the leaders and organizations that the Albany Business Review selected for its 2020 Achievers Awards. Congratulations and much respect to these extraordinary teams and individuals.

CONFIDENCE DURING COVID: If COVID has taught teachers anything, it’s adaptability. They’ve had to rethink and retool the way they deliver lessons to students. Now, two professors at SUNY Adirondack in Queensbury are conducting workshops to help teachers nationwide build the most important skill students need for the 21st century – confidence. 

WE LOVE THEIR WAY: Downtown Plattsburgh, NY, is a lot more colorful these days, thanks to new murals coordinated by a local arts organization. They join a 40-foot-high painting of actress Jean Arthur, a Plattsburgh native. Speaking of Plattsburgh, who remembers 45 years ago when Peter Frampton recorded what would become a smash-hit live performance of “Baby, I Love Your Way” before fewer than 1,000 people at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Memorial Hall?


LEAVE NO TRACE: A plain metal monolith made national news when Utah state officials, counting bighorn sheep by helicopter, spotted it standing in a barren slot canyon. Though officials didn’t reveal the exact location, a lot of people went looking, and many found it, setting up a great Thanksgiving mystery: Had Martians left it behind? Now it’s gone, dismantled and hauled away by two adventure sportsmen who say they did it in defense of public lands.

DID WE MISS ANYTHING?: A four-person team of researchers deployed to a remote atoll in the Pacific Ocean in February to begin eight months of research, during which they had no TV, no cell service and limited Internet access. They heard about coronavirus through an occasional email but assumed it would go the way of SARS or the swine flu. Not quite.

BREEZING THROUGH: We’ve all seen them by now, giant windmills standing in clusters, typically on distant hilltops. In California, interest in wind energy is such that a business there offers self-driving excursions through a large wind farm near Palm Springs, complete with narrated videos to explain what you’re seeing.

A LOST EYE ON THE COSMOS: The gigantic Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, long a destination for astronomers, collapsed two weeks after the National Science Foundation said it was in danger of falling and would have to be demolished. More than 900 tons of material crashed down from the mountaintop.


SWEET MUSIC: The Albany Symphony and its conductor, David Alan Miller, have been nominated for a Grammy in the category of best classical instrumental solo. It is the sixth nomination for Miller, the fifth for the orchestra. The Grammy Awards are scheduled to be presented on January 31.

BROADWAY ON PAUSE: What started as a four-week shutdown is now in its eighth month, with no one sure when to expect the lights to go back up on Broadway. An industry that employs 90,000 people and pumps $2 billion a year into the New York City economy is in limbo, but Broadway has been down before and always bounced back.

MAKE WAY FOR SCROOGE: Theaters and production companies across America remain largely shuttered by the pandemic, but that’s not stopping a lot of them from finding creative ways to stage “A Christmas Carol,” a holiday classic and a staple of their winter seasons.

A FRESH VIEW OF HAMILTON: Jessie Serfilippi, a 27-year-old novice historian and part-time interpreter at the Schuyler Mansion State Historic Site in Albany, has received national attention for her scholarly essay citing evidence from original source materials that Alexander Hamilton bought, sold and owned slaves. “My driving force was to make sure the story of the people Hamilton enslaved was not erased,” she told the Times Union. “I never anticipated all this attention.”


CHASING THE STORY: Karen DeWitt has outlasted governors, legislators, elected officials and scoundrels of every stripe in 30 years of covering Albany politics for New York State Public Radio and Television. She’s a respected fixture in Capital Region media. Like many journalists, she caught the news bug early — when she was a high school junior in Burnt Hills, the incubator for some other great media talents, Kate Snow of NBC and Jessica Layton of CBS 2 New York.

ANCHORS AWAY AND AT HOME: Mark Mulholland is named anchor at WNYT News Channel 13, succeeding Jim Kambrich. One of the most senior and respected reporters in the Capital Region, Mark has been a fixture at WNYT for 25 years, most recently as Saratoga-North Country News Chief. He’s also the founder of Kelly’s Angels, the local charity that helps Capital Region children and families dealing with life-changing illnesses, and a close friend and former colleague of ours at Behan Communications.


THE WALLS HAVE SECRETS: The Canajoharie couple who bought a fixer-upper and proceeded to find its walls packed with bootlegged liquor from the days of Prohibition are having a blast learning about its notorious former owner, posting about it on social media and fielding an increasing amount of interest from media around the world.

PRIVATE DINING: The cozy Cottage Restaurant and Café at the Mirror Lake Inn in Lake Placid is offering guests a warm, socially distant and definitely unique dining experience, having converted old gondolas from nearby Whiteface Mountain into outdoor dining booths. 

BOOK IT: The Selected Letters of Ralph Ellison, co-edited by Skidmore College President Marc C. Conner, is among the 100 Notable Books of 2020, as selected by the editors of The New York Times Book Review. President Conner holds a doctorate in English literature from Princeton.

HISTORIC BOOT: Vanderbilt University’s Sarah Fuller made college football history last week, becoming the first woman ever to play for a team in what is called the Power Five conferences, the elite whose members dominate the national rankings. She kicked off to open the second half for the Commodores but the team was shut out, so she did not get a chance to score. She won’t get a chance this week either, as Vanderbilt’s scheduled game against Georgia was canceled because of the coronavirus.

ESCAPE FROM CANADA: Residents of the northern U.S. aren’t the only ones who head south for the winter. The principals of a helicopter company and a trucking company in Ontario figured out an ingenious way for Canadians with winter homes in the southern U.S. to beat the pandemic-related border closure. It involves a helicopter ride to Buffalo and the shuttling of vehicles on commercial car carriers.


SOLUTIONS, SLOW COOKED: H.L. Mencken famously said: “For every complex problem, there is a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong.” Solving problems quickly so we can cross them off our list is comforting, but a solution that doesn’t really fix the issue will only make it worse. Leadership consultant Daniel Markovitz offers a simple, four-step process that can help you get past the urge to rush to solutions.

COMPASSIONATE LEADERSHIP: Most of us handle the disruptions of life relatively intact, assuming they’re not too severe or don’t come at us all at once. But when the challenges are big and arrive in bunches, they can form what author Bruce Feiler calls “lifequakes.” He has some advice for how managers in the workplace can help the people who work with them navigate the challenges.

STAYING POWER: There are venerable businesses, and then there is Ichiwa, a small, family- owned business that has been selling grilled rice flour cakes in Kyoto, Japan, since the year 1000. Japanese businesses generally put tradition and stability over profit and growth, which may explain why more than 33,000 businesses in the country have at least 100 years of history, more than 40% of the world’s total.


CHESS’ ORIGINAL QUEEN: Chess is having a moment. Fueled by the popularity of the Netflix series “The Queen’s Gambit,” as well as limits to outside social activity, chess boards are hard to find and how-to books are in demand. The chess prodigy in “The Queen’s Gambit” is fictional; Vera Menchik was not. And she was a sensation.

WELCOME BACK: Tiana Mangakahia is a senior point guard on the women’s basketball team at Syracuse, where she holds the school record for career assists. The native of Australia missed all of last season as she underwent treatment for breast cancer, but you’d never have known it after she recorded 16 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists in her return to action in the Orange’s season opener, a 50-39 win at Stony Brook.

TONY HSIEH was an entrepreneurial genius who built Zappos into a $1 billion Internet shoes and clothing powerhouse by recognizing early on the importance of getting people to feel comfortable and secure with buying online and training call center employees to talk with customers as if they were old friends. His mission in life was to bring smiles and happiness to people everywhere he went, a longtime business associate said. As much artist as entrepreneur, Hsieh died of complications of smoke inhalation, the result of a house fire. He was 46.

RAFER JOHNSON won the 1960 Olympic decathlon at a time when the decathlon gold medalist was considered the greatest athlete in the world. His victory in Rome was one of the most memorable in the history of the event. He was close friends with Robert Kennedy, and helped subdue the assassin who mortally wounded the senator and Democratic presidential candidate in 1968. He later was active in promoting the Special Olympics, and in bringing the 1984 Summer Olympics to Los Angeles, where he lit the Olympic flame. He was 86.

FRANK LEAK became Mayor of the Village of Colonie when he was 68, a Navy vet and retired homebuilder with a penchant for serving people. He died a few weeks ago at 93, having served as mayor until health concerns prompted his retirement a year ago. “He always used to say, ‘if we can’t help the people what are we doing here?’” his successor Tom Tobin remembered. “Every day, when I am out talking to people, someone asks about him and they always have a story about him. And a good one.”


“The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!”
— Unknown

Seven dogs with bandanas posing in a living roomA SPECIAL OCCASION: Rob and Hillary Dunn met through their volunteer work at the Stevens Swan Humane Society in Utica, NY, a no-kill shelter for dogs and cats. For the second year in a row, the couple prepared Thanksgiving meals for about 80 dogs and 150 cats, with each dog getting a plate of fresh turkey, green beans and canned pumpkin. The cats settled for the pumpkin.

THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Maury Thompson, Tina Suhocki, Matt Behan, Bill Richmond, Kelly Donahue, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tara Hutchins, and Claire P. Tuttle.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

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